Cruise ships usually offer shore excursions that can be booked for an additional fee. These can be more expensive than going with a 3rd party, since the cruise line takes a cut. Is there a list of companies offering shore excursions in the Western Caribbean? Anyone have experience with a tour operator in particular in this region?

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Hah! I'm getting to re-use cruising tips I wrote almost ten years ago. Yay for recycled material!

Shore Excursions

There are generally two reasons to book your trips through the cruise line:

  1. Not missing the ship
    If you go on an excursion arranged through the cruise line, and they return late, you're guaranteed that the ship won't leave until you return. If you go on a third-party excursion, though, that's not the case. It can cost a lot of money to catch up to the ship in the next port, and it's all money out of your pocket. Or in other words, you can think of at least part of the surcharge as insurance.
  2. Cruise line-guaranteed quality
    This can be more important than you think; on one cruise we had a bad excursion experience and the cruise line was willing to refund part of the cost. Joe TourOperator who knows that you have to be on board at a certain time and then you'll never be seen again isn't as likely to want to make you happy.

There's one other reason to go with cruise line tours: one of the nicest parts of cruising is the instant community that arises, and it's fun hanging out with some of the same people off the ship, too.

Yeah, the excursions are expensive. But hey, how often do you get a chance to take a helicopter to a glacier and then walk around? I did it on my first trip to Alaska, and while I feel no urge to do it again, it was a great experience and one that I'm happy I did.

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